My Tribute to Luke Perry

So here it is close to 2:00 in the morning and I can’t sleep, which isn’t uncommon. What is uncommon over the past few years is me actually writing an original post for this website. Sure, all the articles I write for FanSided make their way here but it’s been a long time since I’ve actually written something just to write. It’s something I told myself I would start doing when I celebrated the fifth anniversary of this site nearly a year ago, which happens to be the last original post that came from The Luke Norris Experience, but I didn’t follow through. Shocking, right? So why did I wait until the death of a 52-year-old actor whom I never met to do this? Well, allow me to explain.

Like so many of you reading this, when I see that some sort of celebrity has passed away, whether it be an actor or a sports figure or whatever, I tend to look back at what that person has accomplished or given the world, maybe chime in on a post or two but then I just go on with my day. After all, it doesn’t really affect my own life and a week or two later, the majority of the hoopla surrounding such a death is gone from the media cycle anyway, right? So why even take the time to write something on Luke Perry? Well, it’s because this one actually stung a little bit.

Perhaps some of you may want to laugh at me for that. Maybe some of you want to laugh or get upset with anyone that actually takes time out of their day to post something on social media about these celebrities because in the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t feel like it matters at all with everything else going on in the world. North Korea. The water crisis in Flint. Starving children in Africa. Democrats vs. Republicans. That goddamn wall.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I do read up on all of those things and of course they matter and they’re obviously very important issues. And I could sit here and write about that as well if I felt like it. But here’s the thing. Those actors or musicians or authors or sports figures are people that we sometimes look to in order to escape that “real world” for an episode or a film or a song or a book or a game at a time. They’re people that draw us into their world, even if only for a little while, and make us feel something one way or another and that’s why people post about celebrities. They’re people that we sometimes look to for comfort in a world that doesn’t always give that to us. It’s to remember that this person, someone we may have never met for even one second in our life, brought some sort of joy to our lives at one point in time.

So with all the celebrities out there who have left us too soon, why choose to finally break out of this writing slumber I’ve been in by writing on Luke Perry? For starters, that’s just something I need to do anyway because I know I have more to offer than what I’ve been doing but that’s not the point right now. Sure, I could go into how underrated 8 Seconds is or that fantastic turn he made in doing Oz or showing off some comedic chops in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or how excited I was when I heard that he scored a role in the upcoming Quentin Tarantino flick that’s out this summer, which is now just going to be really freaking brutal to watch. Let’s not forget about that video he was in for The Killers as well. But those that know me know why we’re here. No, it’s not just the Luke thing (that’s not even his real name or any part of his real name for that matter), although I certainly have had my share of being called Luke Perry in my lifetime, which I certainly never minded as it was at least something different than hearing “Luke, I am your father” for the millionth time. That’s not even the right line, people. But I digress. We’re here for Beverly Hills, 90210. We’re here for Dylan McKay.

I have zero problem admitting that I was a sucker for teen dramas, probably longer than I should have been. Dawson’s Creek or One Tree Hill or whatever. But hey, there’s worse things in the world and it all started with that group from Beverly Hills. It didn’t take me long to latch onto the Dylan McKay character and I can truly say that nearly 30 years later, he’s still one of my favorite television characters of all time. Again, maybe that’s something that makes you laugh with all the great characters that have graced the small screen over the course of time but everyone has their favorites and Dylan McKay will always be one of mine. The reason is quite simple. He’s just someone with whom I identified and Luke Perry played him to perfection. Yes, it’s still a teen drama so there’s plenty of crazy storylines and cheesy moments but the Dylan stories were always just a little more interesting and complex.

Okay, there was the love triangle with Dylan, Brenda and Kelly in the early years and what guy hasn’t been torn between the blonde and the brunette at one point or another? I’m obviously joking on that but there’s plenty of truth here. What I’m getting at more is the relationship with his father. That feeling of abandonment at a young age that carries over. That feeling of putting trust back into someone only to be knocked back down again and again. Yes, there’s the father in prison thing that I can certainly relate to as well. There’s a great scene with Dylan just curling up by a candle and crying that really pulls at the heartstrings. This is a guy that plays things so cool on the outside and is simply dying on the inside. A guy that feels so alone even when there are still people around that care about him. Yeah, I think I can relate there and Luke Perry just played it beautifully.

So then the father comes back into the picture and Dylan lets him back in, even when it seems like maybe he shouldn’t. Yep, been there as well. And then Dad dies right in front of him. Okay, my dad didn’t get blown up in a car but like Dylan, I watched my father die right in front of me and that image still haunts me sometimes. There’s this amazing episode, an episode that I kid you not is playing at this moment in the background as I write this, in which Dylan is talking to another version of himself (and later on his childhood self) trying to deal with things before, during and after the funeral and it’s heartbreaking. You know what song was playing at the end of that episode? “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” by The Williams Brothers. So I want to make this tribute video for my father after he died and you know what song I choose to open it? You guessed it. “Can’t Cry Hard Enough” by The Williams Brothers. This was in 2012. That episode, “The Child Is Father to the Man” aired in 1993. That’s how much a silly episode of a teen drama to some can mean to someone else. I’ve watched that episode so many times over the years and I love watching Luke Perry craft his way through that episode. And we’re just going to gloss over the fact that we find out so many years later that the death was staged as I like to pretend those episodes didn’t happen. But even there, there’s a few lines I could throw out that are amazing.

Trust me (and those that know my undying love for that show would back me up on this), I could go on and on with more episodes and get really particular if I were so inclined. I just always enjoyed the character because I could relate to that person in so many ways…the good and the bad. I like to think that I’ve helped people at points in my life but I’ve also knocked plenty of people down with certain comments or actions. I like to think I have a good heart when I’ve got my head on straight but believe me, it’s turned black plenty of times, especially when I let certain things get out of control. I’ve been burned myself on plenty of occasions and in turn, I’ve done my fair share of the burning. On that note, the “May the bridges I burn light the way” line is absolute gold. There were episodes where he turned to writing for comfort and episodes where it seemed he was headed for such bad things if he didn’t turn his life around. In the three decades since Luke Perry took that role, I can still go back and sometimes feel like he’s playing me. So my wife didn’t get killed and heroin never became an issue for me and I’m not quite at the McKay level financially but I think you get the point.

I will say that I’ve never seen an episode of Riverdale but I have heard good things about him on that show and did have plans to check it out at some point. What I have seen is Luke Perry talking about how much he enjoyed taking on the older role in a teen drama because of how much he loved being a father in real life. That’s something he and I definitely shared. And his son is a freaking professional wrestler. How was I not supposed to want to be friends with that guy?

So maybe this whole piece still seems pointless to you and that’s okay. I’m in no position to tell anybody what to do or what to think. Maybe this just gave me the chance…even if he’ll obviously never see it…to say thank you to someone who has entertained me for 30 years and will continue to do through the beauty of streaming and/or DVDs. Or maybe it actually did open the floodgates back up as far as my writing is concerned and that’s something I can thank him for later on.

I’m sure that there are plenty of you reading this that feel the same way about some celebrity you’ve never met. Some actor that’s made you laugh or some musician that has written a song that’s spoken to you. Anyone that you’ve connected to in some way that’s taken you away from the world for even a brief moment. Throw it out there and don’t worry about what someone is going to say about it. Luke Perry was one of those people to me and I’ll never be ashamed to admit that. Rest in Peace, sir. Thank you.

My Night At ‘The Max’

I want to do a little something different this week. Yes, I’m obviously still writing and getting some articles out this week but it’s actually been quite a while since I’ve written anything for the sheer joy of just writing and that’s something I need to change. And I spent some of today writing about ISIS so I kinda need something a little more fun. For the past year, I’ve been so wrapped up in getting articles out for the websites I work for (obviously a necessity…..you know, I like the roof over my head and being able to feed my kids and all), but I haven’t been writing just to write. Whenever I would start something that I wasn’t getting paid for, I’d find myself feeling guilty for it, which I know sounds a little ridiculous but I just couldn’t help myself from feeling that way. Don’t get the wrong idea, though. I love being able to do what I do. I get to spend more time with my daughters and I have the freedom to write on just about anything I want and get a check for it. However, the drawback is that I’m constantly looking for the next story or researching the current one and that doesn’t leave a lot of time for other projects that I want to do. I’ll explain more in the upcoming “The State Of The Luke Norris Experience Address”, which is way past due anyway, but I’m planning on writing a lot more outside of actual “work”. I just don’t want my passion for writing to get lost. Yes, I can use whatever talent I do have to make a little money, but I just don’t want it to always seem like work. Writing is supposed to be fun and that’s something I’ve forgotten a little bit, so I want to have a little fun today.

Now, one of the great things about my job is when a story I write reaches somebody that’s actually involved in it. It’s happened a few times in the past and it happened again recently. As I mentioned earlier, one of the perks of my job is the freedom to find an entertaining topic and run with it. So when I heard that a Saved By The Bell pop-up bar and diner was coming to Chicago, I jumped on it. Look, any kid that grew up in the 80s and 90s like I did knows the show. From original airings on Saturday mornings on NBC to reruns on TBS years later, I’m not ashamed to admit that I’ve seen every episode way too many times and can quote probably way too many lines. I mean, seriously, you can’t ever listen to the song “I’m So Excited” without thinking of Jesse’s “drug” problem, can you? Actually, I probably need to stop myself before I just start throwing quotes and storylines up here, so let’s get into it.

When I heard that “Saved By The Max”, which was going to be a replica of “The Max”, was seriously going to be an actual thing, I couldn’t help but get excited about it (see, you just thought I was making another “I’m So Excited” joke), so I found as much information as I could from the Facebook page and got it out there. The first one (which you can read HERE) did fairly well and I followed up with a second article when they announced the actual location. Outside of wanting to plan an actual trip to Chicago (only about a three-hour drive for those who don’t know me) to go, I really didn’t think too much more about it until @SavedByTheMax started following me on Twitter and I was soon after contacted by a man named Michael Corrigan, who’s running all the PR for the place. He thanked me for helping to spread the word, which only validated that my articles were reaching the people that they were intended to reach. Again, I didn’t think much of it, but we started chatting back and forth about me attending the grand opening on June 1, but a scheduling conflict with a doctor’s appointment for my daughters didn’t allow that to happen, but he told me that anytime that I wanted to come up to just contact him, even with them selling out the entire month of June on the very first day of ticket sales. The following weekend ended up working for me, so I e-mailed Michael and within just a few minutes, I had 9:00 reservations on a Friday night for the hottest place in Chicago. I called up an old friend of mine who I knew would appreciate this place as much as I would and we were all set.

I rolled out of Peoria at around 3:00 on Friday afternoon and arrived at my buddy’s place around six, which I’ll certainly take on a Friday in the Chicago area at rush hour. We left his place at around 7:15 just to make sure we had enough time to deal with Friday night traffic into the city and hopefully find a decent parking spot, which we actually did only two blocks away from our destination. We both had looked at pictures of “Saved By The Max” online and such, but on the way into the city, we each talked about what we might expect when we walked up, but we had absolutely no clue what we were in for….that is, until we saw it from across the street.

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I openly admit that I got a little giddy when I saw it, but we still had about half an hour to spare and I knew we wouldn’t get in right away, so we went to a nearby bar for a warm-up beer before heading back. A line for walk-ins had formed outside (seriously, do your best to get a reservation if you plan on going as the walk-in spots are limited and the lines get long). As we walked in, we were immediately hit with awesomeness on the wall.

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Trust me, I really wanted to change that to “Kelly loves Luke” but I was able to contain myself. Come on, you can’t tell me that Kelly Kapowski wasn’t one of your childhood crushes, am I right? It was either Kelly Kapowski, Kelly Taylor or Winnie Cooper for me (I just like ’em all, I guess), but I composed myself and moved to the amazing wall to the right of the lockers.

There were throwbacks to the Johnny Dakota episode…
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…the oil spill…
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…Screech’s robot Kevin from some early episodes…

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…and of course. Look, it’s even got little caffeine pills.

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As we made our way in, it was seriously like walking into a time warp. As we turned a slight corner to check out the main area, it was clear that the pictures hadn’t done the place justice. It was absolutely mesmerizing as we were seated at the counter/bar. There was a huge “Bayside Tigers” sign on the wall just above the DJ area (the place does turn into more of a bar after 11 and it’s a little easier to get in) that had the familiar KKTY Tiger Radio logo on it. Surely you remember how bad Slater’s sports commentary was, don’t you? I mean, he did save “The Max” later on in the episode though. Yep, I know way too much about the show.

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I was astonished at the detail the owners had put into the place. From the familiar entrance (sorry folks, the door is just for show) to the arcade games in the corner to the jukebox that even had a reference to the sacred “A12”, it was all here. There was even one corner table made to look a bit like Mr. Belding’s office.

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And much to my delight, there were plenty of people in costume. The group behind us went all out. The guy had a Slater wig on, one of the girls had a Bayside cheerleader outfit on and another had enough denim on for everyone in the joint…and probably enough hairspray as well going for the old school Kelly look and I’ll openly admit to crushing on her for a second or two. Another great thing is that while you’re sitting there, they’ve got plenty of music from the show going in the background. That DJ booth isn’t just for show and right there in the middle of the joint, they got up and gave us a great example of “The Sprain”. Awesome.

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Now, as far as the food and drink are concerned, I couldn’t have cared less after just being in the place for two minutes. Just the nostalgia factor alone made the trip worth it, but the food is incredible. Every item on the menu has some hilarious tie to the show.

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Personally, I went with the AC Sliders for my appetizer, the Bayside Burger with fries for my entree and had to go with the Hot Sundae for dessert. My buddy got the burger as well, but went with the Mac & Screech for an appetizer and Miss Bliss’ Candied Bacon for dessert. And no, I’ve got no problem admitting that he and I shared our food. I thought we might end up sharing a milkshake with two straws but that might have been a little too much.

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But we did offer one another tastes of the delicious cocktails that our mixologist Gabby made up for us.  I forgot to take a picture of the drink menu, but everything is right there at savedbythemax.com to take a look at. If memory serves correctly, we tried the “I’m So Excited”, the “Mark Paul 75”, the “Miss Simpson”, “The Eric”, “Jessie’s Joan of Arc”, the “Ginger Baldwin” and “The Last Dance” between the two of us. And every single one of them was fantastic. I do remember the “Miss Simpson” being my favorite, but I’d drink any one of them again in a heartbeat. And all the while, we’re talking to the staff, all of whom were wonderful people, and just soaking in the atmosphere. Pardon the awful pun that I’m about to make, but it really was a nice timeout from the grind of everyday life. Obviously, we didn’t spend the entire two and half to three hours that we were there talking all things Saved By The Bell, but we damn sure hit on it quite a bit. From our favorite episodes to characters to whatever, we seriously felt like we were actually sitting at “The Max”. And it certainly didn’t hurt when Gabby came up and told me that my bill had been taken care of. I can’t thank Michael Corrigan enough for hooking this up for me and I’ll probably be hitting him up again soon for another trip. “Saved By The Max” was originally only supposed to be open for the month of June, but the response was so overwhelming that they decided to extend it through August. And when those reservations got all filled up, they recently announced that they’re extending it until the end of the year.

As much as I want to, I can’t take credit for the best line of the night, which has to go to my buddy when he said that “we crossed off a bucket item list that we never knew we had”. And there’s really nothing that I can write that’s going to say it any better than that. Seriously, if you’re in the Chicago area, or even within a few hours of the city….GO. You will not regret it.

Now if I could only find a place like this resembling The Peach Pit. Maybe I’ll make that my next fun project.

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As always, thanks for reading. For those of you who are new to the site, please feel free to take a look around and give me a follow if it suits you. You can also follow me on Twitter @THElukenorris and can also get updates on every new article I write on The Luke Norris Experience Facebook page. Enjoy the experience.

 

 

The Results Are In!

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Well, after weeks of votes, the results for Favorite TV Christmas special and Favorite Christmas movie are in. The top 5 in each category are below.

    FAVORITE CHRISTMAS TV SPECIAL

5. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street-10%
4. Other-14% (My favorite entry in this category was the 1992 Married With Children Christmas episode
3. Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas-14%
2. Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer-24%
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas-29%

    FAVORITE CHRISTMAS MOVIE

5. Miracle on 34th St/Elf (tie)-7%
4. Other-14% Entries here included The Nightmare Before Christmas and the older version of A Christmas Carol
3. Scrooged-17% (also my personal favorite)
2. A Christmas Story-20%
1. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation-24%

I just want to thank everyone who voted. Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did. And to all my loyal readers, I want to wish all of you a very Merry Christmas. May this holiday season bring you all the joy and happiness you deserve. For more Christmas fun, check out my letter to Santa Claus. https://thelukenorrisexperience.com/2013/12/22/dear-santa/

Happy Holidays everyone!